Dispatch Taxi taking steps with parking congestion
by BRIAN NADIG
Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) has delayed taking action on a zoning proposal for one of the properties owned by Dispatch Taxi Affiliation in the 4500 block of North Elston Avenue for almost a year because of concerns about parking.
Laurino aide John Riordan reported at the Nov. 13 meeting of the Mayfair Civic Association that while some parking problems exist, the company recently took steps to reduce the congestion created by taxicabs parking on Elston. Riordan said that the alderman wants to hear the opinions of residents on the parking situation before a decision is made on whether to grant the company its zoning request.
Riordan said that the company has begun leasing parking spaces at a car repair shop and that it transferred about 150 of its vehicles from its facility at 4536 N. Elston Ave. to a more centralized property in the city that it had acquired in April. About 360 taxicabs remain assigned to the Elston facility.
The company also has implemented a shuttle service that picks up its drivers at train and bus stations in an effort to encourage workers to use public transportation rather than driving to the dispatch center and parking their cars in the neighborhood, Dispatch manager Anita Cisneros said. Cisneros told the association that changes to the start times for shifts may be considered in an effort to further reduce the number of cabs parked on the street during busy times for nearby businesses.
The city Department of Revenue has conducted three parking enforcement missions on Elston in the past year, and one of the missions resulted in $7,500 in citations issued to Dispatch, Riordan said. He said that under city code, taxis cannot be parked for more than 2 hours between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m.
Dispatch is seeking to rezone the site of a former auto glass company at 4520 N. Elston Ave. from C1-1 to C2-1 to allow the storage of auto parts and tires. The company’s main facility on the block was rezoned to C2-1 2 years ago to allow the installation of a new overhead door.
The company also plans to install a decorative fence and shrubs on an unimproved lot on the block that it uses to store vehicles.
Cisneros said that she is not aware of any plans by the owners of the company to increase the size of its fleet. She said that the competition that the taxi industry is facing from car-sharing services such as Uber discourages expansion.
Association Zoning and Development Committee chairman Chris Lambesis said that he would like to see how Dispatch handles the usual upswing in cabs parked on Elston during the holiday season before a decision is made on the zoning request.
Dispatch officials have said that demand for taxi service decreases during the holidays, resulting in fewer drivers wanting to lease vehicles. Lambesis said that a previous manager at Dispatch told him that incentives would be offered to drivers to encourage more of them to work during the holidays so that fewer vehicles would be left on Elston.
Association president Ron Duplack and vice president Tom Keating said that said that Dispatch has shown a willingness to work with the association and that the company previously addressed issues of noise and garbage related to its facility.
Riordan said that he plans to arrange a meeting with some of the business owners on the block and the residents who live near the Dispatch’s facility.